Bamboozle are a 50’s influenced rocking band with a modern sound. Being one of the only bands to have a gal on vocals and rockabilly slap bass a world class pedal steel player , one of the scenes top rockabilly guitarists and drummers and mesmerising four part harmonies Bamboozle are the band to see !
Playing a range of 1950’s rockabilly swing and western swing classics original songs and arrangements of some modern tunes , Bamboozle are a truly rocking band to dance the night away to.
The band consists of:
Serena Sykes – Double Bass/Vocals
Jim Knowler – Guitar/Vocals
Dave Kirk – Pedal Steel Guitar /Vocals
Shaun o’Keeffe – Drums /Vocals
The new single ‘Just like you’ is taken off the album ‘Red Right Hand’.
juicy jukebox interview – BAMBOOZLE
How would you describe your music ?
Serena: I guess you could describe our music as Modern Rockabilly Swing… Or 50’s Revival… It’s a real eclectic mix of our influences. It has some definite rockabilly tones, and a strong western swing feel, and also swing style, but it also has a clean, modern sound, with even some alternative influences from myself. Its very difficult to pin down in one style, its not really like anything else around at the moment.
Jim: Rockabilly, Rock n’ Roll, Western swing and jive. Influenced by music from the 1950’s, but with a modern edge to it.
Shaun: A strong rockabilly sound with a broad range of styles
What is your new single about and where did the inspiration come from ?
Serena: The title track of our EP, Red Right Hand, is actually an original arrangement of a song by the artist Nick Cave. It’s a song I fell in love with when the movie “Scream” first came out, as it is featured on the soundtrack, and I was a big fan of horror, and really impressed with the new ‘slasher flick’ style the movie brought to the mix.
When we started Bamboozle, and I really started to get a taste for rockabilly music, which is really my favourite personal influence in the band, I had the idea to do a cover version of the song. The rest of the band members were dubious at first, but after we tried it a few times, it really gelled, and it was quickly obvious the tune would feature heavily at gigs.
Jim wrote the other main song on the EP, “Just Like You”. He has been writing music since he was 17, and has had a lot of success previously with his band, The Keytones, which he wrote all the original music for. We even spotted one of his singles in the “Rare Records” book in Waterstones a few weeks back, that was an exciting moment. The single is worth £20, and I think we still have a good few copies, just in case we’re ever that broke 😉
The version of Pink Panther was really just a jam. We were messing around with the theme in a rehearsal, and I mentioned I’d love to play the theme on bass, it would be a lot of fun as its such a cool tune. We played around with it, and the rockabilly style made its way into the arrangement, and we all just knew it would be a hit with our audience. Its such an exciting feel!
Jim: The new EP is our first release. We wanted to create something that would showcase as many of the genres of music we play. “Red right hand’ is a rockabilly cover with a modern edge to it. “Just like you” is a song I wrote. It’s about someone realising that a friend they had known for a while, was becoming more than a friend. It’s written to a jive tempo, so nice and upbeat for the dancers to enjoy.
Dave inspired “The Pink Panther”, when he started playing the famous intro. Serena had the idea of playing it as an instrumental despite not having a saxophone in the band. This gave it an original twist that I think works really well.
“Ice Cold Beer” is another original composition written by me. It’s about a guy who has obviously had a lot of bad experiences in his love life. So he decides to seek solace in a bar and buy an ice-cold beer, and cheers himself up by comparing the beer to his past girlfriends, and the beer wins hands down. It’s a very tongue in cheek song, with a western swing feel to it.
Shaun: Red right hand , Serena (bass) had the idea to turn a slow moody Nick cave song into a raw hard rock n roll number
What inspired you to start a career in the music business ?
Serena: Personally, I’ve been into music for a long, and I tried for years to work my way into different parts of the industry as a singer, but as a single Mum, I always struggled to make anything work, as my kids would always come first, and I just couldn’t keep up with the work.
When Jim and I met 4 years ago, I hadn’t had any experience with live bands before, and I learnt a lot about the live music industry through travelling around with him, and getting an understanding about how it all worked. We played around at home often too, but the real moment it all started was on a holiday we took in Holland.
We did a house swap with one of his friends, and in her lounge, was an old double bass. On the very first day, I took an interest in the instrument, and asked Jim to show me what to do with it. String instruments were completely alien to me, and it took a good while to get my head around how the notes moved around the instrument, its really unusual at first, trying to work out where the notes are, as they aren’t just linear like the piano, oboe or vocals, and finding that you could play the same note in three or four different places was just mind blowing!
After our holiday, and a lot of playing around, I arrived home and just had to buy one! I found a decent, but cheap enough one online, and just threw myself into the instrument, playing every moment I had, and learning everything I could from a YouTube series of double bass lessons.
We actually performed our first gig as a duo, just 6 weeks after I had bought the instrument, just four songs to a small audience, but it was an amazing experience, and it all grew from there. Jim and I loved playing together, and we practiced for fun all the time. The more we played little gigs, the more we were asked to play. It wasn’t intended to be a career tbh, it was a hobby, but last year, Jim decided it was time to leave the band he had worked with for the last 30 years, and put his efforts into something new, to see if he could find his passion and motivation for playing again, and so Bamboozle was born, and I fell into working as a full time musician, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment.
Jim: I’ve always loved music from an early age. My Dad played piano, my uncle played accordion and mouth organ (which he taught me to play, my first instrument). My Grandpa played Dobro. So after hearing my cousin play guitar, singing Elvis, Eddie Cochran, The Everly Brothers, I knew that was what I wanted to play, guitar!
I didn’t know I could make much of a career from music, but I worked on my playing until I was good enough to do some gigs. This built up gradually and before I knew it I was making a living from playing music. It has to be the best thing in the world to make a living from something I love doing, I feel blessed.
Dave: I’ve been playing guitar since 6 years old and a career was inevitable really. I was born in 1953, and there was only big band music about in those days. In the late 50s, all of a sudden, rock and roll came along and was so much cooler than adult music! Because I could already play guitar, it was inevitable that I would want to follow such a cool trend.
Shaun: Live rock n roll bands have been my life since I was 9 yrs. old. My brother was a drummer in a rock n roll band for about a year in the 1970s & I thought it was a cool thing to do…I wanted to be part of the action.
What are your top tracks or artists of all time ?
Serena: Gosh, I have so many. I’m one of those crazy, insanely eclectic people. I grew up listening to my Mum’s music, which mainly consisted of Cliff Richard, Elvis, The Carpenters, Neil Sedaka, Kate Bush, Johnny Mathis and similar artists.
As I grew up, I discovered female vocalists who I found really inspiring, such as Eva Cassidy, Alanis Morrisette, Tori Amos, Norah Jones, Imelda May, Katie Melua and then I found Ella Fitzgerald, and my world changed. The first song I hear was “They All Laughed” with Louis Armstrong, and I was in love. Her voice was mesmerising, and I immersed myself in her music. I love everything she did with Louis too, their joint ventures were magical, and just had such a great sound and swing to them. When developing my style, Ella was a huge influence vocally for me. I also remember hearing “Let’s Face The Music and Dance” by Nat King Cole on an advert on television for Allied Dunbar. I had no idea at the time who the song was by, but it really affected me for years after I heard it. I was just stunning and really stuck with me. I didn’t realise I was a Nat King Cole fan until my 20s, when I realised I had heard many of his tunes, and loved them all.
There is another distinct side to my music listening habits too however, and I have loved many bands and artists, who to me, sound like the have an incredible energy and passion for their music and performance, which is something that is really important to me as a performer. As a teenager, I fell in love with the performances of Meat Loaf. His on stage energy, and his pure passion in his vocal were just fantastic to me, and I would dance around the house for hours to his music.
As I got older, I really got into bands such as Green Day, The Foo Fighters, Three Days Grace, & Evanescence. I had a real alternative period in my life, but it was always high-energy music, with some real performers.
Finally, when I met Jim, he introduced me to the real world of 50’s music, and some artists and styles I had just never come across. Rockabilly music hit me straight away. Its raw energy was addictive, and I listened to Jims CD and vinyl collection constantly. I quickly found some artists who I just loved, especially Janis Martin (“Drug Store Rock and Roll”, “My Boy Elvis”), Wanda Jackson (“Let’s Have a Party”, “Fujiyama Mama”) Brenda Lee (“Jump the Broomstick”) and Johnny Burnette (“Train Kept a Rollin”, “Sweet Love on my Mind”).
I also loved rockabilly double bass. When I first learned bass (just over 3 years ago), it was all about Ray Brown and jazz, it was a great way to learn, and he had played on some of my all time favourite music, but the more I listened to rockabilly, the more I knew I had to learn to play slap style. So at around the end of 2015, I bought a few DVD’s, practiced a lot and got some great advice from some of the coolest players on the rock and roll/rockabilly/psychobilly scene, my favourite current player being Steve Whitehouse of Frenzy, the guy is a born performer and an amazing player. I met his last hear at Hrieps festival in Holland, and he gave me some truly great advice.
It was really hard to learn to play, as for the first few months, my fingers were just covered in blisters and sores, and I couldn’t play for very long at all, but I kept pushing myself, and as soon as they had healed just a bit, I would be back on there, working at it again. After a while though, my body just gave up protesting and now it takes a very heavy few weeks for them to get sore, mostly, they’re just a bit rough, but still nice enough to be girly 😉
I also have to put in a special mention to The Beatles… I actually HATED the band! I really did. I think mostly as I’m quite anti-drugs. I’ve seen family members really struggle with addiction, people I really love, and its been quite a painful topic in my life, and when I found out about the reason for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and how they were always high, I took a moral stand and just dug my heels in with them, that us until very recently.
I was asked to play bass and do backing vocals with a local singer/guitarist called Andy Mack, as he had been asked to do a Beatles tribute gig. It was before I played full time, so I agreed to do it for the experience, and also to push myself to learn an entire set of music I had never really listened to in just under 2 weeks, on bass guitar, an instrument I never really picked up! I figured it would be a good challenge.
Andy lent me his fully notated songbook of every Beatles song, and gave me a set list, and I set to work, and I have to admit, by the time the gig came around, I was a huge fan of the music. It is so skilfully written, and Paul McCartney is a new hero of mine. His performances were just brilliant, and his musicianship is truly skilled. I now revoke all the bad things I said about the Beatles!
Jim: My favourite artists would be Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Mel Torme’, Django Reinhardt, Jimmy Bryant, The Beatles.
Dave: The Time Jumpers (Texas swing band) – “My Window Faces the South” & “Leaving & Saying Goodbye”.
Asleep at the Wheel – “San Antonio Rose”.
Shaun: So many, too many to list, but I’ll try a few…for singers I would say Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Karen Carpenter, lots of Beatles songs but , I only have eyes for you is a favourite song of mine. An old but great tune…
Tell us about your creative process. Who writes and produces your material and what instruments or software do you use in creating your sound ?
Serena: Our creative process is really just as eclectic as our music. Jim is really our songwriter in the band, and has been doing so for many years, but we all have a big input in the sound we make, and everyone adds their own interpretation of their parts, which all fits really nicely together when we rehearse.
Personally, I’m more of an arranger than a songwriter, and although everything we do has elements from everyone, the core of the arrangement for Red Right Hand was mine, which made me feel so proud that the boys really liked and embraced the idea. Its really nerve wracking putting your personal ideas forward, but its really wonderful when they are accepted and supported, and the guys are really fantastic to work with.
I have also written songs all my life, but unlike Jim, none of mine have ever surfaced from my computer or manuscript paper, until last week. I’ve been working on a few songs in a swing/rockabilly style for Bamboozle, and I finally had the courage to put one forward to the boys last week. It’s a jive tempo song called “Daddy’s Girl”, and is about a rebellious and a little spoilt girl who’s Dad keeps buying and giving her things, but she loses or wrecks them, but she’s really a Daddy’s girl at heart. We performed it for the first time last Friday and Saturday, at our gigs in Deal and Gloucester, and they really went down fantastically. The audience responded amazingly to them, and I was really shocked and humbled by the experience! Especially as on the Saturday, the audience were all Jivers, and the floor was almost full to my song! That was something I really didn’t expect to see. Its given me a huge boost in confidence and I hope to have 3-4 of my own original tracks on our album, which we hope to record before the end of 2017.
Jim: I write a lot of the material, but the other band members are also writing now, which is great! It takes the pressure off. We all bring our songs to rehearsal and create the sound as a band. With everyone bringing an idea to the song with the way they play their instrument, it makes it unique.
Shaun: Usually everyone plays how they hear the song…The band produce the song through personality of their individual playing style…at the moment Jim writes, The rest of the band are starting to write & Serena has just finished her first, which is now in the set.
Does singing come natural to you or did you have lessons ?
Serena: Oh dear… Now I’m not sure whether I should admit this one or not…. I did have lessons… In fact, I did a short stint at stage school as a teenager. My singing roots are really in Musical Theatre, and I’ve had the honour of being able to perform in some wonderful venues over the years, such as The Leeds Grand Theatre, Manchester Opera House, Bradford Alhambra, The Royal Festival Hall, McAlpine Stadium and many more. I played some wonderful roles in my time, such as Eponine in Les Mis, Nancy in Oliver!, Sharon in “A Slice of Saturday Night”, and have performed in a lot of variety performances, one of my favourites being able to perform live over radio broadcast to John Barry for his birthday, in conjunction with BBC Radio York.
I still have lessons occasionally, but I would say my teacher is more of a mentor. I see her once every few months, and she checks me over vocally, and then mostly, makes sure I am looking after myself, gives me the most invaluable advice, and just generally supports my career more than anyone. If it wasn’t for Avril, I’m not sure I would still be singing and working in music, as she has helped me keep my belief in my ability and myself.
Jim: I’ve never had lessons but always sung from a very early age, at school and church. Also at family parties, we were always singing.
Dave: Comes naturally (never had lessons). My parents, (before the days of television or radio), used to sing in harmony downstairs when I went to bed. My Mum would usually take the lead line and my Dad would harmonies. All four of us kids would listen to them upstairs and wanted to be like Mum & Dad, and in no time I was also finding harmonies. It was all just natural. Also, when I learnt to sing, I was also taught to Yodel, and my mother would invite people in from the street to listen me yodel, but I was so shy, that I used to hide behind the hallway door, and yodel from behind there!
Shaun: Natural, I think, I watch other drummers & always hear the drum patterns in music & learn from there
Where can we find you online ?